Dec 29, 2016
Don Diablo Celebrates 100 Episodes Of Hexagon Radio
Don Diablo always has an interesting story to tell, and that was no different when we caught up with him at Echostage in Washington, D.C. this month before his show. He started Hexagon Radio in February of 2015, and the show’s carefully structured track selection immediately caught the attention of his fans. The show has continued to grow as Don Diablo’s presence in the industry has skyrocketed over the course of the last two years. Enjoy Don’s thoughts about the show and his Hexagon label, as well as what he’s been up to and what lies ahead for him in 2017. Be sure to dance away to the special 100th episode, the Hexagon 2016 Year Mix.
In February, 2015, you released the first episode of Hexagon Radio. What was your vision for the radio show at that time?
Good question. I felt like it was going to be quite a task. It’s something I always wanted to do, but I was a little bit afraid of how much work would be involved. And I was right about it, it is a lot of work every week. I just wanted to make the greatest radio show that I could possibly make. It’s all very personal. Every song is still until this day, single-handedly picked by me. If there is one song I don’t like, I go out and search the internet for hours in the night without sleeping to make sure every song in the show is fire. It’s not easy filling an hour each week. There is a lot of horrible music out there. There’s not a whole lot of great music out there. It’s taken more time than I expected. Sometimes not to the liking of my management, but it is what it is. I can really see that it’s growing still and it’s an important asset to my career right now.
That trademark Hexagon voice and intro – “Cross boundaries, brighten up your week, open up your ears and broaden up your horizon” – seems to have really defined your show throughout the past two years.
The basic foundation is the songs. I mean you can see the sound is moving in a certain direction so you’re kind of forced to move in a certain direction with the show as well. But I’m trying to hold onto the format because things are already changing so much in the world. Everybody wants to be The Chainsmokers so everywhere is future bass. I’m still looking for good house records and mixing it up with really cool, esoteric, bassy, broken beats stuff. I just always keep in mind that people are listening to it in a certain state of mind that has to be impactful instead of just putting it on in the background.
You really seem to have accomplished two of your big goals for Hexagon – supporting new talent and sharing new music. Where do you see the label headed next year?
I’ve decided I’m going to do a little bit less next year, so more focus on every release. I want to treat every release on my label as if it was a Don Diablo release. Obviously, A&Ring is 100% me, but every little detail from the artwork, to the viral videos, anything that has to do with the label creatively goes through my hands. You can’t do four releases a month if you want to do that. I have to be extra critical about what I release. Plus we have to move on. It’s called future house, we have to look into the future. Using the same sounds and same synth patches and doing the same thing again is not exciting for me. I mean that’s kind of what music is. People hear something, it becomes popular, everybody starts doing it, but I want to be ahead of that.
What’s it like now having some established artists, guys like Mike Mago and MOTi, releasing on Hexagon? Is this a trend you think we will see continue?
Yeah. Initially that’s not what the label was intended for. At the end of the day, what I want is just to release music without thinking too much about it. It could be an artist that was popular a few years ago, but is not popular at all anymore, or it could be someone that is insanely hot right. I just judge music the way I want my music to be judged – just close my eyes and play it really loud a couple of times in a row. Listen to it, give it a fair chance. I might not even like that artist or I might not even like the previous record, but I don’t think about that. I want to judge a song for a song. I think Hexagon has the strength and influence to move people in a certain direction and get them excited about something. Even in collaboration with Spinnin’ they are offering us records, because they know Hexagon is a strong label to do a certain sound. The music comes from different angles. I don’t know, I think 2017 and beyond I just again want to raise the bar, 100%.
When Hexagon started In 2015, your career was big, but this year has seen you expand to even more new heights with your Hexagon solo headlining tours and festival headlining. Can you talk a little about that transition and your growth this year?
I 100% see that it goes hand in hand. There is a reason I spend 15, 16 hours a week making the radio show and maybe another 10 hours a week, at least, working the record label. People think I’m nuts. They are like, “Why don’t you just work on your own music or get somebody to just do the radio show? Who cares? It will be good.” If you do something on the label, you have to do it as an artist as well. You can’t say a, then do b. Practice what you preach. So I’m looking for new sounds and just great records.
Ideally I want to release one record that is super Spotify and one record that is super dance floor each month. Right now there is a lot of music that is in between; you can’t really play it in DJ sets, but it’s also not super listenable. I’m really looking for music that is really left or really right, instead of the gray purgatory that a lot of artists are getting stuck into. The live shows have grown as well. The Hexagon shows, the whole tour, I’m just playing my own music. Just Don Diablo releases.
That really is a perfect transition for us to talk about some of your upcoming and unreleased music. Are you playing a Roger Sanchez – “Another Chance” remix?
I don’t know how to say that, I sampled a Toto record and that’s what he sampled too. I don’t know what I’m doing with it, but I just love it. I grew up on that song and just wanted to play it for my sets and there’s not a real plan with it. Some of these songs, you have to come to the shows to hear them, they may never get released.
What about your “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remix?
Let’s put it this way, I’m not making a random bootleg.
What can you tell us about “Switch” [Be sure to check out "Switch" as part of his 2016 Don Diablo Yearmix]?
“Switch” originally started as something that was a tool in my sets. Some people ID it as “Tonight (VIP Mix)”. I got so many requests for that track that I felt I needed to turn it into an original. I never really knew what I was going to build the track around and then I had this very simple idea and now I’ve finished it and I’m going to release it in January.
Now you have what sounds like an extended piano intro almost before “On My Mind” in some of your sets. Can you talk about that?
Oh yeah, that’s an album instrumental.
It’s more like cinematic almost.
Yeah. That’s the style I want to go to. It really works live. See for me, not all records need to be a quick mix and super just jumped into. This is one of those songs that has a place in my sets to create more emotion and create a moment. It really fits well in that part of my set. I don’t know if it will have vocals or what, but the idea behind it was to make my sound, you can kind of hear it in some of my records like the Birdy – “Keeping Your Head Up” remix, for example. It’s kind of more organic, using real instruments, and sounding less digital. Give it more warmth and more of that analog organic sound.
There is another thing coming that I’m playing in my sets; it’s a vocal, that is me singing. It’s actually the title song to a really cool science fiction film. There is a lot of cool slightly different songs coming up. That’s what I want the album to be. We don’t have a fixed release date. We don’t have a fixed tracklist. But one thing I know, before summer hits I want to put out a body of work. We are selecting the tracks that will be on it. There will be some new fresh stuff on there that has a different outlook on what I’ve been doing so far. We say in Holland, standing still is moving backwards, so we have to look into the future.
All of Don Diablo’s Hexagon Radio episodes and tracklists can be found here.
short link 1001.tl/gc44hb